This section is from the book "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland", by Jane Francesca Wilde. Also available from Amazon: Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland.
Once, a chief, being jealous of the splendour of the Fenian princes, became their bitter enemy, and set himself to curse Bran above all hounds in the land.
But Fionn answered, "If thou shouldest curse Bran, my wise, intelligent dog, not a room east or west in thy great mansion, but I will burn with fire."
So Bran rested on the mountain with Fionn, his lord and master, and was safe from harm.
Yet, so fate decreed, Bran finally met his death by means of a woman. One day a snow-white hart, with hoofs that shone like gold, was scented on the hill, and all the hounds pursued, Bran leading. Hour after hour passed by, and still the hart fled on, the hounds following, till one by one they all dropped off from weariness, and not one was left save Bran. Then the hart headed for the lake, and reaching a high cliff, she plunged from it straight down into the water ; the noble hound leaped in at once after her, and seized the hart as she rose to the surface ; but at that instant she changed into the form of a beautiful lady, and laying her hand upon the head of Bran, she drew him down beneath the water, and the beautiful lady and Fionn's splendid hound disappeared together and were seen no more. But in memory of the event the cliff from which he leaped is called Coegg-y-Bran; while the lake and castle beside it are called Tiernach Bran (the lordship of Bran) to this day. So the name and memory of Fionn's hound, and his wisdom and achievements are not forgotten by the people ; and many dogs of the chase are still called after him, for the name is thought to bring good luck to the hunter and sportsman. But the Cailleach Biorar (the Hag of the Water) is held in much dread, for it is believed that she still lives in a cave on the hill, and is ready to work her evil spells whenever opportunity offers, and her house is shown under the cairn, also the beaten path she traversed to the lake. Many efforts have been made to drain the lake, but the Druid priestess, the Hag of the Water, always interferes, and casts some spell to prevent the completion of the work. The water of the lake has, it is said, the singular property of turning the hair a silvery white ; and the great Fionn having once bathed therein, he emerged a withered old man, and was only restored to youth by means of strong spells and incantations.
In Cormac's Glossary there is an interesting account of how the first lapdog came into Ireland, for the men of Britain were under strict orders that no lapdog should be given to the Gael, either of solicitation or of free will, for gratitude or friendship.
Now it happened that Cairbré Musc went to visit a friend of his in Britain, who made him right welcome and offered him everything he possessed, save only his lapdog, for that was forbidden by the law. Yet this beautiful lapdog was the one only possession that Cairbré coveted, and he laid his plans cunningly to obtain it
There was a law at that time in Britain to this effect :
" Every criminal shall be given as a forfeit for his crime to the person he has injured."
Now Cairbré had a wonderful dagger,'around the haft of which was an adornment of silver and gold. It was a precious jewel, and he took fat meat and rubbed it all over the haft, with much grease. Then he set it before the lap-dog, who began to gnaw at the haft, and continued gnawing all night till the morning, so that the haft was spoiled and was no longer beautiful.
Then on the morrow, Cairbré made complaint that his beautiful dagger was destroyed, and he demanded a just recompense.
" That is indeed fair," said his friend, " I shall pay a price for the trespass."
" I ask no other price," said Cairbré, " than what the law of Britain allows me, namely, the criminal for his crime."
So the lapdog was given to Cairbré, and it was called ever after Mug-Eimê, the slave of the haft, which name clung to it because it passed into servitude as a forfeit for the trespass.
Now when Cairbré brought it back to Erin with him, all the kings of Ireland began to wrangle and contend for possession of the lapdog, and the contention at last ended in this wise-it was agreed that the.dog should abide for a certain time in the house of each king. Afterwards the dog littered, and each of them had a pup of the litter, and from this stock descends every lapdog in Ireland from that time till now.
After a long while the lapdog died, and the bare shell being brought to the blind poet Maer to try his power of divination, he at once exclaimed, through the prophetic power and vision in him, "O Mug-Eimé ! this is indeed the head of Mug- Eimé, the slave of the haft, that was brought into Ireland and given over to the fate of a bondsman, and to the punishment of servitude as a forfeit."
The word hound entered into many combinations as a name for various animals. Thus the rabbit was called, "the hound of the brake;" the hare was "the brown hound;" the moth was called "the hound of fur," owing to the voracity with which it devoured raiment And the other is still called by the Irish Madradh-Uisgiie (the dog of the water).
The names of most creatures of the animal kingdom were primitive, the result evidently of observation. Thus the hedgehog was named " the ugly little fellow." The ant was " the slender one." The trout, Breac, or " the spotted," from the skin. And the wren was called "the Druid bird," because if any one understood the chirrup, they would have a knowledge of coming events as foretold by the bird.